The Padres have some amazing bullpen pieces, from the nasty stuff of Kirby Yates to the blazing fastball of Emilio Pagan. The Padres might have the most underrated bullpen in baseball. But this piece won’t be about any of those guys, it’ll be about a shortstop turned pitcher named Javy Guerra.
Early Red Sox career:
Guerra signed with the Red Sox at the age of 16 for $250,000 out of Panama in 2012. He made his pro-debut in 2013, where he hit .248/.356/.290 with a .646 OPS in 243 plate appearances. He’d go on to rise into one of the Red Sox better prospects from his defense and incredible arm.
Traded for an elite closer:
After the Padres acquired all-star closer Craig Kimbrel from the Braves, The Padres would end up trading Kimbrel to the Red Sox for four prospects one of them being Javy Guerra. At the time of the trade Guerra was a top-100 prospect on the rise and was 20-years-old. What wasn’t there to like with Guerra, he was coming off a career year hitting .279/.329/.449 with 15 home runs and a .778 OPS. Guerra’s power was starting to come around and he was still a terrific defender.
Something changed while he was in San Diego’s system, his bat failed to transition as his strikeout rates rose to 32.7% from 23.5% the previous season, and his walk rates increased in his first year to 7.9%. It would later decrease to 5.1% the next season, while his strikeout percentage continued to be about 30%. After another failed year in 2018, the Padres decided to convert the young shortstop into a full-time pitcher.
Guerra has quietly become a rising pitching prospect for the Padres and with him only being 24-years-old, he could become a staple in the Padres pen. On the other end, the Padres have plenty of pitching depth in their pen as mentioned prior and with Guerra being out-of-options it’s going to be difficult for him to land a bullpen job in San Diego. The right-hander has some great stuff, making him the most intriguing arm in the Padres bullpen.
How good is his stuff?
|Tool/Pitch||Current Grade||Future Grade|
Guerra has a three-pitch mix, a sinker, four-seam fastball, and a slider. Now, after doing some research he relies on his sinker the most, throwing it about 45% of the time. His fastball he throws about 32% of the time and his slider gets thrown about 23% and with some fixing these could be solid pitches going forward. He controls his pitches well but fails to hit his spots in many situations. For a pitcher that’s only pitched 8.2 innings in a cup of coffee last season he showed plenty of potential. Especially, with his spin rate.
|Pitch type||MLB Average|
|Sinker: 2,230 RPM||Sinker: 2,100-2,150 RPM|
|Fastball: 2,346 RPM||Fastball: 2,250-2,350 RPM|
|Slider: 2,489 RPM||Slider: 2,400-2,500 RPM|
The fact that he’s already having about league average stuff and is still breaking into the league is impressive. Continuing with the numbers, Guerra threw a total of 134 pitches opponents chased 22% of the time and had a 17.2 whiff% as well. Let’s talk about his pitches, His sinker gets up to 98 MPH, that he can spot down in the zone. Guerra’s fastball touches 100 and his slider is in the high 80’s to top everything off.
In terms of exit velocity against him it’s a measly 87.8 MPH and his K% was 16.7% compared to an 8.3 BB%. These are in a relatively small sample size but again these numbers show Guerra’s ability to miss bats and could tell us how he will perform in the future.
Mechanically, Guerra throws from a three-quarter arm slot and if he starts using his lower-half more he could add even more velocity to his game. One thing to note is he tends to open up too soon making it harder to command his pitches. His consistent arm speed makes his stuff look that much better. Watching Guerra pitch reminds me of a top closer in baseball in Roberto Osuna. Just look at the similarities…
This is an intriguing situation with Guerra; he certainly has the stuff and he fills up the strike zone enough to be effective at the Major league level. The only question is will the Padres give him a chance in 2020? While his time at short is over, his time in the bullpen is not. Whether it’s with the Padres or someone else, Guerra is one special story to follow for the 2020 season.